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Why the Voices of Black Twitter Were Worth Saving

The fear was reasonable. It was a fear I also carried. Uncertainty about whether or not I should tell the story now, and whether or not it was right to air what many consider family secrets, crept into the back of my mind. But I knew this story deserved to be told.

When I set out to chronicle Black Twitter in April 2021—charting its rise, power, and what I felt was its unquestionable cultural impact—I was, admittedly, attempting to define a community that defies easy definition. In truth, Black Twitter is more than a community. It is an ever-growing, always-evolving force that has influenced nearly every aspect of modern life.

Black Twitter is the birthplace of all your favorite memes, hashtags, and trends. It is more than that, too: Black Twitter doesn’t simply make culture; it shapes society. From the history-setting presidency of Barack Obama to hashtags like #OscarsSoWhite, #BlackGirlMagic, and #BlackLivesMatter, Black Twitter is both the extraordinary and the everyday. It is, as I wrote in 2021, all the things: news and analysis, call and response, judge and jury—a comedy showcase, therapy session, and family cookout all in one.

Even as other platforms like TikTok have attempted to capture what made Twitter what it is—in my estimation, the most significant social platform of the 2010s—Black Twitter endures as the most dynamic subset not only of Twitter, now X, but also of the wider social internet (as last week proved, there was no better place to be than Black Twitter as the Drake and Kendrick Lamar beef played out).

What’s more, so much of Black life in public view is misrepresented and appropriated. It’s twisted into fantasy or fetish, or worse—left for dead. The technologies available to us have magnified our connection just as they have quickened our erasure. Our stories are routinely stolen from us, if not deleted outright. Out of our hands, our history is flattened and repurposed into dangerous falsehoods by lawmakers who peddle misinformation for personal gain. The story of Black Twitter was one account I didn’t want to lose to the whitewashing of history.

I also knew that the reality of the social internet is one of impermanence. Once-crucial digital gathering spots from the 1990s and 2000s—NetNoir, Black Voices, MelaNet, Black Planet, and others—had come and gone largely without proper contextualizing. So it was important that I give Black Twitter its flowers while it was still around, which now seems even more urgent under the ownership of Elon Musk. All that we built, and continue to build on the platform, could be gone tomorrow.

After WIRED published the people’s history of Black Twitter, I began working on a documentary based on the reporting in the oral history. The resulting three-part series, out today, expands on the original story, and also captures the very real fears surrounding what could lie in Black Twitter’s future.

So why this story, and why now? It’s simple, really. I didn’t want Black Twitter to be another footnote.


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